small gallery in East Berlin. It was a pretty cool installation of gray insulation foam that had been sliced and diced with a machete into what appeared to be very sharp, jagged rock.
After looking at it awhile, I admitted to the guy standing next to me (incidentally, a chemist) that I was having a hard time resisting the urge to squeeze the squishy, yet hard-seeming, piece of art. The artist, Sonja Vordermaier, who happened to be in earshot, wandered over and kindly gave me the go-ahead to indulge my impulse.
Then she told me that my urge was actually pretty pedestrian compared to what had happened the day she installed the piece in the gallery.
Apparently, she had gotten a little thirsty amid all the setting up and had gone to the back room of the small gallery to make some tea. When she came back to the sculpture, something was missing.
During her absence, somebody had taken a big bite out of the foam.
Yes. They took a bite out of the sculpture and then left the gallery. Stifling a laugh, I looked a little closer, and there it was: an unmistakably clear outline of somebody's chops. The person had even left with part of her art in their mouth.
I wasn’t quite sure if having someone eat your sculpture was a traumatic experience, so I asked, “Um, how did that make you feel?” Sonja quipped that she considered the bite to be one of the biggest compliments she had received for her work. Right answer.
The whole thing got me thinking about how old-school chemists used to sample their creations as part of the characterization process. (Some current-day chemists probably sample, too.) It also got me thinking that I don’t capitalize on all available senses when experiencing daily life. I mean, I have never tasted a piece of art, except perhaps on a plate at a good restaurant here and there. And I typically don't lean in for a whiff at galleries. But now I may be tempted.
One more thing, about our own literary art. For the record, I don't condone rampant destruction of C&EN back issues. But if you simply can't resist the urge to take a nibble or a not-so-delicate chomp on a particularly well-written article, so you can really chew on the content, just don't swallow the paper, okay?
So I was recently checking out some art at a